A group of Washington, D.C. protesters upset about the possibility of a Walmart store coming to their area is hoping to send the potential developer of the proposed store a message. So much so that they're planning to march to and protest at the developer's personal residence. The group has even gone as far as to circulate the man's home address.
The group is called Wal-Mart Free D.C. and describes itself as "a group of DC residents who have come together to say NO to Wal-Mart." In order to make its point, a flyer on the group's website say it's organizing a march to harass the potential developer -- Dick Knapp of Foulger-Pratt Development (the company has yet to sign a contract with Walmar)t. The flyer sets the march for Thursday at 7:30 p.m. and includes Knapp's address.
But the address may not be the flyer's only controversial element. Ironically, it also contains a target symbol -- a similar picture to the one seen on a district map created by Sarah Palin and that's sparked outrage from the left in the wake of the shootings in Tucson. And what's worrying is that the group's symbol is connected to specific event at a private residence:
This isn't, however, the first time the group has protested at Knapp's home. The group staged a similar demonstration on December 16. Video of the event shows police were present in order to maintain order. And while officers did step in to mitigate one disturbance, no major incidents were reported. The event video, posted on the site LiveLeak, shows the protesters chanting with bull horns and marching with signs as they blast Walmart and Knapp:
A similar protest from this past summer, however, raises concerns about the organization's tactics.
Last May, a group of picketers from the SEIU showed up at the home of Bank of America executive Greg Baer. The only one home at the time of the protest, however, was Baer's teenage son. The boy was so frightened by those shouting outside, he locked himself in the bathroom until his dad returned home (where Baer had to fight his way through the crowd) to comfort him.
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Baer's neighbor Nina Easton recounted the event for Fortune magazine, and said the group crossed the line:
Now this event would accurately be called a "protest" if it were taking place at, say, a bank or the U.S. Capitol. But when hundreds of loud and angry strangers are descending on your family, your children, and your home, a more apt description of this assemblage would be "mob." Intimidation was the whole point of this exercise, and it worked-even on the police. A trio of officers who belatedly answered our calls confessed a fear that arrests might "incite" these trespassers. [Emphasis added]
After initial contact with a spokesperson for Wal-Mart Free DC, the group did not answer The Blaze's questions regarding their position and the protest. Knapp also did not return our request for comment.
The Walmart, which has not been finalized, would be built north of the U.S. Capitol building near the intersection of Georgia Ave. and Missouri Ave. in the city's fourth ward.
Is Walmart good or bad for the community?
"We are not interested in negotiating the terms of Wal-Mart’s arrival," Wal-Mart Free DC says on its site's "about" section. "We know the harmful impact that Wal-Mart always has, from thousands of case studies around the country, and around the world. We believe in our hearts, and in our minds, that DC must continue to be Wal-Mart Free."
Despite claims that Walmart destroys communities, however, the group cites no specific studies or examples. And the group spokesperson did not respond to a request for such material.
An official website from Walmart set up to inform the community takes an understandably different position. It touts the job opportunities as well as the economic development the stores can bring to an area.
"Bringing Walmart to Washington, D.C. would increase tax revenues for the city and offer residents the affordable prices and job opportunities that come with each new store," the website Walmartwashingtondc.com says.
At least one city official agrees. D.C. Councilman Harry Thomas Jr. (D-Ward 5) has been on the D.C. Council since 2007 and became chairman of the economic development committee this month. In an interview with the Washington Post on Monday, he explained why he supports a Walmart coming to his district (the retail chain is proposing four total throughout the D.C. metro area).
Thomas believes a single Walmart-anchored development could bring up to 1,200 jobs, and says the idea of bringing the retailer into D.C. makes sense.
"I think I'm most supportive because I think it represents a total private investment of a corporation coming here," he told the Post. "Here's an opportunity where we're taking no city dollars and trying to create industry."
And according to videos posted on the Walmartwashingtondc.com site, there D.C. residents who believe the same thing:
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Still, there are those who don't. And a number of them will be at Dick Knapp's house on Thursday.